How to Choose the Right Crib for Your Baby

A crib is critical for your baby’s sleep, and it is also a key nursery design feature.  It’s the center of any nursery, and as the focal point, it sets the style tone for the room. It is also the most essential and important single piece of furniture for your baby’s sleep, comfort, and well-being. Your baby will spend much of his or her early life in a crib as babies sleep up to 70 percent of the time (14-17 hours a day). 

Buying your first baby crib is exciting but given the wide array of choices, it can also be daunting. Here are a few key points to consider when choosing the right crib for your baby. 

When to Buy a Crib

A crib is the first thing you should purchase, and you should start preparing to make your buying decision in the first or second trimester when it is easier for you to move around. Don’t forget to factor delivery and assembly times into the equation.

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Safety should be the top priority so whatever you decide, make sure it conforms to the newest testing standards. Familiarize yourself with the most recent safety standards and make sure the crib you choose is up to date.  You can look for the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) safety certification seal. When assembling your baby’s crib make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions. 

If you are using a previously owned crib, there are several factors you will want to carefully scrutinize. Check for recalls and see if the crib manufacturer is still in business.  To ensure that your baby is sleeping in the safest crib possible refer to current standards. For example, the rail spacing of a crib should be no more than 2 3/8 inches apart and corner posts should be no higher than 1/16 inch. The crib walls should be at least 26 inches above the mattress support.  

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Always use cribs with stationary sides and avoid drop-side cribs as they have been banned by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Check for missing hardware, warn-out pieces, and loose bolts/screws. Avoid cribs with decorative cut-outs, or corner posts as well as those that have led-based paint.  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that you not use a crib that was manufactured before 2011.  

Avoid all crib clutter this includes bumpers, blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, toys, and books. The only thing your little one needs is a firm, breathable crib mattress and tight-fitting sheets (use only standard mattress sheets meant for your mattress). The mattress should not sag under your baby’s weight and there should not be gaps between the mattress and the crib walls.

Make sure the mattress you choose is free of toxic chemicals (look for Greenguard Gold certification). Consider a washable hypoallergenic mattress and never use a foam topper. The AAP warns that babies should never sleep on soft surfaces like couches or waterbeds. 

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When positioning a crib in the nursery make sure it is not near a window to protect your baby against sunlight and drafts.  You also want to avoid positioning the crib close to potential hazards like electric outlets, power cords, light switches, drapery, strings from blinds or curtains as well as vents, radiators, or other heat sources. Make sure that the crib is not too close to the walls, shelves, and other nursery furniture.   


Cribs are available at different price points and there are options to suit every budget. Cribs range in price from as little as $200 to well over $2,500 with the average being around $400. While smaller local stores tend to carry cribs in the mid to premium levels, large department stores tend to focus on the low to mid price ranges.

You can find cribs at all price points and styles online but be mindful of additional shipping fees. In some of the more inexpensive cribs, you may not be able to adjust the mattress height as your baby grows. Whether you buy your crib at a mega baby store, a small shop, or a big box department store, make sure you know the return policy. 

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Style and Convertibility 

Once you have determined your price range you can begin to zero in on the features and styles that are most important to you. There is a wide variety of styles from modern to rustic, and an even wider range of finishes and colors to choose from.  Most cribs are gender neutral so they can be used by either a girl or a boy. Cribs can also come as part of a matching nursery set that includes a mattress, a changing table, or a dresser combo. 

Standard cribs are still popular, but the most popular choice may be the convertible crib which can convert to a toddler bed, daybed, twin-size bed, or even a full-size adult bed (check to see if additional parts are required). These beds save money and reduce environmental impacts.

Sleigh-style cribs are an attractive option, but they tend to be more expensive.  Round cribs are another novel option, but this type of design requires specialized mattresses and bedding, and it also takes up a lot of space.  If you opt to buy a crib with a teething rail, make sure it is firmly attached. 

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Storage and Portability 

There are many crib options that can help you to maximize the space you have to work with. There are mini cribs some of which are collapsible and foldable. There are also cribs with drawers underneath and shelves on the back or combo cribs that integrate a dresser or a changing table.  You can also add storage space by putting baskets, totes, or boxes underneath a standard crib. Caster wheels make a crib portable, but make sure the casters are solid and include a locking feature.  

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Choosing the right crib is crucial to your baby’s safety and the design of your nursery. With the right crib, both you and your little one will get a good night’s rest.